SeaWorld Trainers Are No Longer Allowed In Water With Whales, Court Rules

A U.S. appeals court upheld the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s decision to prevent trainers from directly working with orcas at SeaWorld.

Mike Aguilera / Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court panel on Friday upheld an Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruling that SeaWorld violated its duties by exposing trainers to “recognized hazards” when working with killer whales and must limit whale–human contact during its shows.

SeaWorld, the marine entertainment titan, had hoped to overturn the OSHA ruling, which includes a ban on contact between whales and their trainers.

The United States Court of Appeals’ 2–1 ruling means SeaWorld trainers will continue to be prohibited from entering the water with whales during shows, eliminating the dives, jumps, and many other tricks.

OSHA imposed the ban following an investigation into a Feb. 24, 2010, incident in which a 12,000-pound killer whale named Tilikum pulled Dawn Brancheau underwater, drowning the trainer at the Orlando theme park.

The court’s administrative law judge ruled that SeaWorld’s “safety program is inadequate.”

OSHA also recommended that SeaWorld forbid its workers from coming in direct contact with whales without supervision and physical barriers present.

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